The Last Days of Pompeii
Edward George Bulwer-Lytton
Part 7 out of 9
The breeze rapidly aided the effect of the combustibles placed within the
pile. By degrees the flame wavered, lowered, dimmed, and slowly, by fits
and unequal starts, died away--emblem of life itself; where, just before,
all was restlessness and flame, now lay the dull and smouldering ashes.
The last sparks were extinguished by the attendants--the embers were
collected. Steeped in the rarest wine and the costliest odorous, the
remains were placed in a silver urn, which was solemnly stored in one of the
neighboring sepulchres beside the road; and they placed within it the vial
full of tears, and the small coin which poetry still consecrated to the grim
boatman. And the sepulchre was covered with flowers and chaplets, and
incense kindled on the altar, and the tomb hung round with many lamps.
But the next day, when the priest returned with fresh offerings to the tomb,
he found that to the relics of heathen superstition some unknown hands had
added a green palm-branch. He suffered it to remain, unknowing that it was
the sepulchral emblem of Christianity.
When the above ceremonies were over, one of the Praeficae three times
sprinkled the mourners from the purifying branch of laurel, uttering the
last word, 'Ilicet!'--Depart!--and the rite was done.
But first they paused to utter--weepingly and many times--the affecting
farewell, 'Salve Eternum!' And as Ione yet lingered, they woke the parting
Farewell! O soul departed!
Farewell! O sacred urn!
Bereaved and broken-hearted,
To earth the mourners turn.
To the dim and dreary shore,
Thou art gone our steps before!
But thither the swift Hours lead us,
And thou dost but a while precede us,
Loved urn, and thou solemn cell,
Mute ashes!--farewell, farewell!
Ah, vainly would we part!
Thy tomb is the faithful heart.
About evermore we bear thee;
For who from the heart can tear thee?
Vainly we sprinkle o'er us
The drops of the cleansing stream;
And vainly bright before us
The lustral fire shall beam.
For where is the charm expelling
Thy thought from its sacred dwelling?
Our griefs are thy funeral feast,
And Memory thy mourning priest.
The spark from the hearth is gone
Wherever the air shall bear it;
The elements take their own--
The shadows receive thy spirit.
It will soothe thee to feel our grief,
As thou glid'st by the Gloomy River!
If love may in life be brief,
In death it is fixed for ever.
In the hall which our feasts illume,
The rose for an hour may bloom;
But the cypress that decks the tomb--
The cypress is green for ever!
IN WHICH AN ADVENTURE HAPPENS TO IONE.
WHILE some stayed behind to share with the priests the funeral banquet, Ione
and her handmaids took homeward their melancholy way. And now (the last
duties to her brother performed) her mind awoke from its absorption, and she
thought of her allianced, and the dread charge against him. Not--as we have
before said--attaching even a momentary belief to the unnatural accusation,
but nursing the darkest suspicion against Arbaces, she felt that justice to
her lover and to her murdered relative demanded her to seek the praetor, and
communicate her impression, unsupported as it might be. Questioning her
maidens, who had hitherto--kindly anxious, as I have said, to save her the
additional agony--refrained from informing her of the state of Glaucus, she
learned that he had been dangerously ill: that he was in custody, under the
roof of Sallust; that the day of his trial was appointed.
'Averting gods,' she exclaimed; 'and have I been so long forgetful of him?
Have I seemed to shun him? O! let me hasten to do him justice--to show that
I, the nearest relative of the dead, believe him innocent of the charge.
Quick! quick! let us fly. Let me soothe--tend--cheer him! and if they will
not believe me; if they will not lead to my conviction; if they sentence him
to exile or to death, let me share the sentence with him!'
Instinctively she hastened her pace, confused and bewildered, scarce knowing
whither she went; now designing first to seek the praetor, and now to rush
to the chamber of Glaucus. She hurried on--she passed the gate of the
city--she was in the long street leading up the town. The houses were
opened, but none were yet astir in the streets; the life of the city was
scarce awake--when lo! she came suddenly upon a small knot of men standing
beside a covered litter. A tall figure stepped from the midst of them, and
Ione shrieked aloud to behold Arbaces.
'Fair Ione!' said he, gently, and appearing not to heed her alarm: 'my ward,
my pupil! forgive me if I disturb thy pious sorrows; but the praetor,
solicitous of thy honour, and anxious that thou mayest not rashly be
implicated in the coming trial; knowing the strange embarrassment of thy
state (seeking justice for thy brother, but dreading punishment to thy
betrothed)--sympathizing, too, with thy unprotected and friendless
condition, and deeming it harsh that thou shouldst be suffered to act
unguided and mourn alone--hath wisely and paternally confided thee to the
care of thy lawful guardian. Behold the writing which intrusts thee to my
'Dark Egyptian!' cried Ione, drawing herself proudly aside; 'begone! It is
thou that hast slain my brother! Is it to thy care, thy hands yet reeking
with his blood, that they will give the sister Ha! thou turnest pale! thy
conscience smites thee! thou tremblest at the thunderbolt of the avenging
god! Pass on, and leave me to my woe!'
'Thy sorrows unstring thy reason, Ione,' said Arbaces, attempting in vain
his usual calmness of tone. 'I forgive thee. Thou wilt find me now, as
ever, thy surest friend. But the public streets are not the fitting place
for us to confer--for me to console thee. Approach, slaves! Come, my sweet
charge, the litter awaits thee.'
The amazed and terrified attendants gathered round Ione, and clung to her
'Arbaces,' said the eldest of the maidens, 'this is surely not the law! For
nine days after the funeral, is it not written that the relatives of the
deceased shall not be molested in their homes, or interrupted in their
'Woman!' returned Arbaces, imperiously waving his hand, 'to place a ward
under the roof of her guardian is not against the funeral laws. I tell thee
I have the fiat of the praetor. This delay is indecorous. Place her in the
So saying, he threw his arm firmly round the shrinking form of Ione. She
drew back, gazed earnestly in his face, and then burst into hysterical
'Ha, ha! this is well--well! Excellent guardian--paternal law! Ha, ha!'
And, startled herself at the dread echo of that shrill and maddened
laughter, she sunk, as it died away, lifeless upon the ground... A minute
more, and Arbaces had lifted her into the litter. The bearers moved swiftly
on, and the unfortunate Ione was soon borne from the sight of her weeping
WHAT BECOMES OF NYDIA IN THE HOUSE OF ARBACES. THE EGYPTIAN FEELS
COMPASSION FOR GLAUCUS. COMPASSION IS OFTEN A VERY USELESS VISITOR TO THE
IT will be remembered that, at the command of Arbaces, Nydia followed the
Egyptian to his home, and conversing there with her, he learned from the
confession of her despair and remorse, that her hand, and not Julia's, had
administered to Glaucus the fatal potion. At another time the Egyptian
might have conceived a philosophical interest in sounding the depths and
origin of the strange and absorbing passion which, in blindness and in
slavery, this singular girl had dared to cherish; but at present he spared
no thought from himself. As, after her confession, the poor Nydia threw
herself on her knees before him, and besought him to restore the health and
save the life of Glaucus--for in her youth and ignorance she imagined the
dark magician all-powerful to effect both--Arbaces, with unheeding ears, was
noting only the new expediency of detaining Nydia a prisoner until the trial
and fate of Glaucus were decided. For if, when he judged her merely the
accomplice of Julia in obtaining the philtre, he had felt it was dangerous
to the full success of his vengeance to allow her to be at large--to appear,
perhaps, as a witness--to avow the manner in which the sense of Glaucus had
been darkened, and thus win indulgence to the crime of which he was
accused--how much more was she likely to volunteer her testimony when she
herself had administered the draught, and, inspired by love, would be only
anxious, at any expense of shame, to retrieve her error and preserve her
beloved? Besides, how unworthy of the rank and repute of Arbaces to be
implicated in the disgrace of pandering to the passion of Julia, and
assisting in the unholy rites of the Saga of Vesuvius! Nothing less,
indeed, than his desire to induce Glaucus to own the murder of Apaecides, as
a policy evidently the best both for his own permanent safety and his
successful suit with Ione, could ever have led him to contemplate the
confession of Julia.
As for Nydia, who was necessarily cut off by her blindness from much of the
knowledge of active life, and who, a slave and a stranger, was naturally
ignorant of the perils of the Roman law, she thought rather of the illness
and delirium of her Athenian, than the crime of which she had vaguely heard
him accused, or the chances of the impending trial. Poor wretch that she
was, whom none addressed, none cared for, what did she know of the senate
and the sentence--the hazard of the law--the ferocity of the people--the
arena and the lion's den? She was accustomed only to associate with the
thought of Glaucus everything that was prosperous and lofty--she could not
imagine that any peril, save from the madness of her love, could menace that
sacred head. He seemed to her set apart for the blessings of life. She
only had disturbed the current of his felicity; she knew not, she dreamed
not that the stream, once so bright, was dashing on to darkness and to
death. It was therefore to restore the brain that she had marred, to save
the life that she had endangered that she implored the assistance of the
'Daughter,' said Arbaces, waking from his reverie, 'thou must rest here; it
is not meet for thee to wander along the streets, and be spurned from the
threshold by the rude feet of slaves. I have compassion on thy soft
crime--I will do all to remedy it. Wait here patiently for some days, and
Glaucus shall be restored.' So saying, and without waiting for her reply, he
hastened from the room, drew the bolt across the door, and consigned the
care and wants of his prisoner to the slave who had the charge of that part
of the mansion.
Alone, then, and musingly, he waited the morning light, and with it
repaired, as we have seen, to possess himself of the person of Ione.
His primary object, with respect to the unfortunate Neapolitan, was that
which he had really stated to Clodius, viz., to prevent her interesting
herself actively in the trial of Glaucus, and also to guard against her
accusing him (which she would, doubtless, have done) of his former act of
perfidy and violence towards her, his ward--denouncing his causes for
vengeance against Glaucus--unveiling the hypocrisy of his character--and
casting any doubt upon his veracity in the charge which he had made against
the Athenian. Not till he had encountered her that morning--not till he had
heard her loud denunciations--was he aware that he had also another danger
to apprehend in her suspicion of his crime. He hugged himself now at the
thought that these ends were effected: that one, at once the object of his
passion and his fear, was in his power. He believed more than ever the
flattering promises of the stars; and when he sought Ione in that chamber in
the inmost recesses of his mysterious mansion to which he had consigned
her--when he found her overpowered by blow upon blow, and passing from fit
to fit, from violence to torpor, in all the alternations of hysterical
disease--he thought more of the loveliness which no frenzy could distort
than of the woe which he had brought upon her. In that sanguine vanity
common to men who through life have been invariably successful, whether in
fortune or love, he flattered himself that when Glaucus had perished--when
his name was solemnly blackened by the award of a legal judgment, his title
to her love for ever forfeited by condemnation to death for the murder of
her own brother--her affection would be changed to horror; and that his
tenderness and his passion, assisted by all the arts with which he well knew
how to dazzle woman's imagination, might elect him to that throne in her
heart from which his rival would be so awfully expelled. This was his hope:
but should it fail, his unholy and fervid passion whispered, 'At the worst,
now she is in my power.'
Yet, withal, he felt that uneasiness and apprehension which attended upon
the chance of detection, even when the criminal is insensible to the voice
of conscience--that vague terror of the consequences of crime, which is
often mistaken for remorse at the crime itself. The buoyant air of Campania
weighed heavily upon his breast; he longed to hurry from a scene where
danger might not sleep eternally with the dead; and, having Ione now in his
possession, he secretly resolved, as soon as he had witnessed the last agony
of his rival, to transport his wealth--and her, the costliest treasure of
all, to some distant shore.
'Yes,' said he, striding to and fro his solitary chamber--'yes, the law that
gave me the person of my ward gives me the possession of my bride. Far
across the broad main will we sweep on our search after novel luxuries and
inexperienced pleasures. Cheered by my stars, supported by the omens of my
soul, we will penetrate to those vast and glorious worlds which my wisdom
tells me lie yet untracked in the recesses of the circling sea. There may
this heart, possessed of love, grow once more alive to ambition--there,
amongst nations uncrushed by the Roman yoke, and to whose ear the name of
Rome has not yet been wafted, I may found an empire, and transplant my
ancestral creed; renewing the ashes of the dead Theban rule; continuing in
yet grander shores the dynasty of my crowned fathers, and waking in the
noble heart of Ione the grateful consciousness that she shares the lot of
one who, far from the aged rottenness of this slavish civilization, restores
the primal elements of greatness, and unites in one mighty soul the
attributes of the prophet and the king.' From this exultant soliloquy,
Arbaces was awakened to attend the trial of the Athenian.
The worn and pallid cheek of his victim touched him less than the firmness
of his nerves and the dauntlessness of his brow; for Arbaces was one who had
little pity for what was unfortunate, but a strong sympathy for what was
bold. The congenialities that bind us to others ever assimilate to the
qualities of our own nature. The hero weeps less at the reverses of his
enemy than at the fortitude with which he bears them. All of us are human,
and Arbaces, criminal as he was, had his share of our common feelings and
our mother clay. Had he but obtained from Glaucus the written confession of
his crime, which would, better than even the judgment of others, have lost
him with Ione, and removed from Arbaces the chance of future detection, the
Egyptian would have strained every nerve to save his rival. Even now his
hatred was over--his desire of revenge was slaked: he crushed his prey, not
in enmity, but as an obstacle in his path. Yet was he not the less resolved,
the less crafty and persevering, in the course he pursued, for the
destruction of one whose doom was become necessary to the attainment of his
objects: and while, with apparent reluctance and compassion, he gave against
Glaucus the evidence which condemned him, he secretly, and through the
medium of the priesthood, fomented that popular indignation which made an
effectual obstacle to the pity of the senate. He had sought Julia; he had
detailed to her the confession of Nydia; he had easily, therefore, lulled
any scruple of conscience which might have led her to extenuate the offence
of Glaucus by avowing her share in his frenzy: and the more readily, for her
vain heart had loved the fame and the prosperity of Glaucus--not Glaucus
himself, she felt no affection for a disgraced man--nay, she almost rejoiced
in the disgrace that humbled the hated Ione. If Glaucus could not be her
slave, neither could he be the adorer of her rival. This was sufficient
consolation for any regret at his fate. Volatile and fickle, she began
again to be moved by the sudden and earnest suit of Clodius, and was not
willing to hazard the loss of an alliance with that base but high-born noble
by any public exposure of her past weakness and immodest passion for
another. All things then smiled upon Arbaces--all things frowned upon the
NYDIA AFFECTS THE SORCERESS.
WHEN the Thessalian found that Arbaces returned to her no more--when she was
left, hour after hour, to all the torture of that miserable suspense which
was rendered by blindness doubly intolerable, she began, with outstretched
arms, to feel around her prison for some channel of escape; and finding the
only entrance secure, she called aloud, and with the vehemence of a temper
naturally violent, and now sharpened by impatient agony.
'Ho, girl!' said the slave in attendance, opening the door; art thou bit by
a scorpion? or thinkest thou that we are dying of silence here, and only to
be preserved, like the infant Jupiter, by a hullabaloo?'
'Where is thy master? and wherefore am I caged here? I want air and
liberty: let me go forth!'
'Alas! little one, hast thou not seen enough of Arbaces to know that his
will is imperial! He hath ordered thee to be caged; and caged thou art, and
I am thy keeper. Thou canst not have air and liberty; but thou mayst have
what are much better things--food and wine.'
'Proh Jupiter!' cried the girl, wringing her hands; 'and why am I thus
imprisoned? What can the great Arbaces want with so poor a thing as I am?'
'That I know not, unless it be to attend on thy new mistress, who has been
brought hither this day.'
'What! Ione here?'
'Yes, poor lady; she liked it little, I fear. Yet, by the Temple of Castor!
Arbaces is a gallant man to the women. Thy lady is his ward, thou knowest.'
'Wilt thou take me to her?'
'She is ill--frantic with rage and spite. Besides, I have no orders to do
so; and I never think for myself. When Arbaces made me slave of these
chambers, he said, "I have but one lesson to give thee--while thou servest
me, thou must have neither ears, eyes, nor thought; thou must be but one
'But what harm is there in seeing Ione?'
'That I know not; but if thou wantest a companion, I am willing to talk to
thee, little one, for I am solitary enough in my dull cubiculum. And, by
the way, thou art Thessalian--knowest thou not some cunning amusement of
knife and shears, some pretty trick of telling fortunes, as most of thy race
do, in order to pass the time
'Tush, slave, hold thy peace! or, if thou wilt speak, what hast thou heard
of the state of Glaucus?'
'Why, my master has gone to the Athenian's trial; Glaucus will smart for
'The murder of the priest Apaecides.'
'Ha!' said Nydia, pressing her hands to her forehead; 'something of this I
have indeed heard, but understand not. Yet, who will dare to touch a hair
of his head?'
'That will the lion, I fear.'
'Averting gods! what wickedness dost thou utter?'
'Why, only that, if he be found guilty, the lion, or may be the tiger, will
be his executioner.'
Nydia leaped up, as if an arrow had entered her heart; she uttered a
piercing scream; then, falling before the feet of the slave, she cried, in a
tone that melted even his rude heart:
'Ah! tell me thou jestest--thou utterest not the truth--speak, speak!'
'Why, by my faith, blind girl, I know nothing of the law; it may not be so
bad as I say. But Arbaces is his accuser, and the people desire a victim
for the arena. Cheer thee! But what hath the fate of the Athenian to do
'No matter, no matter--he has been kind to me: thou knowest not, then, what
they will do? Arbaces his accuser! O fate! The people--the people! Ah!
they can look upon his face--who will be cruel to the Athenian!--Yet was not
Love itself cruel to him?'
So saying, her head drooped upon her bosom: she sunk into silence; scalding
tears flowed down her cheeks; and all the kindly efforts of the slave were
unable either to console her or distract the absorption of her reverie.
When his household cares obliged the ministrant to leave her room, Nydia
began to re-collect her thoughts. Arbaces was the accuser of Glaucus;
Arbaces had imprisoned her here; was not that a proof that her liberty might
be serviceable to Glaucus? Yes, she was evidently inveigled into some
snare; she was contributing to the destruction of her beloved! Oh, how she
panted for release! Fortunately, for her sufferings, all sense of pain
became merged in the desire of escape; and as she began to revolve the
possibility of deliverance, she grew calm and thoughtful. She possessed
much of the craft of her sex, and it had been increased in her breast by her
early servitude. What slave was ever destitute of cunning? She resolved to
practise upon her keeper; and calling suddenly to mind his superstitious
query as to her Thessalian art, she hoped by that handle to work out some
method of release. These doubts occupied her mind during the rest of the
day and the long hours of night; and, accordingly, when Sosia visited her
the following morning, she hastened to divert his garrulity into that
channel in which it had before evinced a natural disposition to flow.
She was aware, however, that her only chance of escape was at night; and
accordingly she was obliged with a bitter pang at the delay to defer till
then her purposed attempt.
'The night,' said she, 'is the sole time in which we can well decipher the
decrees of Fate--then it is thou must seek me. But what desirest thou to
'By Pollux! I should like to know as much as my master; but that is not to
be expected. Let me know, at least, whether I shall save enough to purchase
my freedom, or whether this Egyptian will give it me for nothing. He does
such generous things sometimes. Next, supposing that be true, shall I
possess myself of that snug taberna among the Myropolia, which I have long
had in my eye? 'Tis a genteel trade that of a perfumer, and suits a retired
slave who has something of a gentleman about him!'
'Ay! so you would have precise answers to those questions?--there are
various ways of satisfying you. There is the Lithomanteia, or
Speaking-stone, which answers your prayer with an infant's voice; but, then,
we have not that precious stone with us--costly is it and rare. Then there
is the Gastromanteia, whereby the demon casts pale and deadly images upon
the water, prophetic of the future. But this art requires also glasses of a
peculiar fashion, to contain the consecrated liquid, which we have not. I
think, therefore, that the simplest method of satisfying your desire would
be by the Magic of Air.'
'I trust,' said Sosia, tremulously, 'that there is nothing very frightful in
the operation? I have no love for apparitions.'
'Fear not; thou wilt see nothing; thou wilt only hear by the bubbling of
water whether or not thy suit prospers. First, then, be sure, from the
rising of the evening star, that thou leavest the garden-gate somewhat open,
so that the demon may feel himself invited to enter therein; and place
fruits and water near the gate as a sign of hospitality; then, three hours
after twilight, come here with a bowl of the coldest and purest water, and
thou shalt learn all, according to the Thessalian lore my mother taught me.
But forget not the garden-gate--all rests upon that: it must be open when
you come, and for three hours previously.'
'Trust me,' replied the unsuspecting Sosia; 'I know what a gentleman's
feelings are when a door is shut in his face, as the cookshop's hath been in
mine many a day; and I know, also, that a person of respectability, as a
demon of course is, cannot but be pleased, on the other hand, with any
little mark of courteous hospitality. Meanwhile, pretty one, here is thy
'But what of the trial?'
'Oh, the lawyers are still at it--talk, talk--it will last over all
'To-morrow? You are sure of that?'
'So I hear.'
'By Bacchus! she must be tolerably well, for she was strong enough to make
my master stamp and bite his lip this morning. I saw him quit her apartment
with a brow like a thunderstorm.'
'Lodges she near this?'
'No--in the upper apartments. But I must not stay prating here longer.
A WASP VENTURES INTO THE SPIDER'S WEB.
THE second night of the trial had set in; and it was nearly the time in
which Sosia was to brave the dread Unknown, when there entered, at that very
garden-gate which the slave had left ajar--not, indeed, one of the
mysterious spirits of earth or air, but the heavy and most human form of
Calenus, the priest of Isis. He scarcely noted the humble offerings of
indifferent fruit, and still more indifferent wine, which the pious Sosia
had deemed good enough for the invisible stranger they were intended to
allure. 'Some tribute,' thought he, 'to the garden god. By my father's
head! if his deityship were never better served, he would do well to give up
the godly profession. Ah! were it not for us priests, the gods would have a
sad time of it. And now for Arbaces--I am treading a quicksand, but it
ought to cover a mine. I have the Egyptian's life in my power--what will he
value it at?'
As he thus soliloquised, he crossed through the open court into the
peristyle, where a few lamps here and there broke upon the empire of the
starlit night; and issuing from one of the chambers that bordered the
colonnade, suddenly encountered Arbaces.
'Ho! Calenus--seekest thou me?' said the Egyptian; and there was a little
embarrassment in his voice.
'Yes, wise Arbaces--I trust my visit is not unseasonable?'
'Nay--it was but this instant that my freedman Callias sneezed thrice at my
right hand; I knew, therefore, some good fortune was in store for me--and,
lo! the gods have sent me Calenus.'
'Shall we within to your chamber, Arbaces?'
'As you will; but the night is clear and balmy--I have some remains of
languor yet lingering on me from my recent illness--the air refreshes
me--let us walk in the garden--we are equally alone there.'
'With all my heart,' answered the priest; and the two friends passed slowly
to one of the many terraces which, bordered by marble vases and sleeping
flowers, intersected the garden.
'It is a lovely night,' said Arbaces--'blue and beautiful as that on which,
twenty years ago, the shores of Italy first broke upon my view. My Calenus,
age creeps upon us--let us, at least, feel that we have lived.'
'Thou, at least, mayst arrogate that boast,' said Calenus, beating about, as
it were, for an opportunity to communicate the secret which weighed upon
him, and feeling his usual awe of Arbaces still more impressively that
night, from the quiet and friendly tone of dignified condescension which the
Egyptian assumed--'Thou, at least, mayst arrogate that boast. Thou hast had
countless wealth--a frame on whose close-woven fibres disease can find no
space to enter--prosperous love--inexhaustible pleasure--and, even at this
hour, triumphant revenge.'
'Thou alludest to the Athenian. Ay, to-morrow's sun the fiat of his death
will go forth. The senate does not relent. But thou mistakest: his death
gives me no other gratification than that it releases me from a rival in the
affections of Ione. I entertain no other sentiment of animosity against
that unfortunate homicide.'
'Homicide!' repeated Calenus, slowly and meaningly; and, halting as he
spoke, he fixed his eyes upon Arbaces. The stars shone pale and steadily on
the proud face of their prophet, but they betrayed there no change: the eyes
of Calenus fell disappointed and abashed. He continued rapidly--'Homicide!
it is well to charge him with that crime; but thou, of all men, knowest that
he is innocent.'
'Explain thyself,' said Arbaces, coldly; for he had prepared himself for the
hint his secret fears had foretold.
'Arbaces,' answered Calenus, sinking his voice into a whisper, 'I was in the
sacred grove, sheltered by the chapel and the surrounding foliage. I
overheard--I marked the whole. I saw thy weapon pierce the heart of
Apaecides. I blame not the deed--it destroyed a foe and an apostate.'
'Thou sawest the whole!' said Arbaces, dryly; 'so I imagined--thou wert
'Alone!' returned Calenus, surprised at the Egyptian's calmness.
'And wherefore wert thou hid behind the chapel at that hour?'
'Because I had learned the conversion of Apaecides to the Christian
faith--because I knew that on that spot he was to meet the fierce
Olinthus--because they were to meet there to discuss plans for unveiling the
sacred mysteries of our goddess to the people--and I was there to detect, in
order to defeat them.'
'Hast thou told living ear what thou didst witness?'
'No, my master: the secret is locked in thy servant's breast.'
'What! even thy kinsman Burbo guesses it not! Come, the truth!'
'By the gods...'
'Hush! we know each other--what are the gods to us?'
'By the fear of thy vengeance, then--no!'
'And why hast thou hitherto concealed from me this secret? Why hast thou
waited till the eve of the Athenian's condemnation before thou hast ventured
to tell me that Arbaces is a murderer? And having tarried so long, why
revealest thou now that knowledge?'
'Because--because...' stammered Calenus, coloring and in confusion.
'Because,' interrupted Arbaces, with a gentle smile, and tapping the priest
on the shoulder with a kindly and familiar gesture--'because, my Calenus
(see now, I will read thy heart, and explain its motives)--because thou
didst wish thoroughly to commit and entangle me in the trial, so that I
might have no loophole of escape; that I might stand firmly pledged to
perjury and to malice, as well as to homicide; that having myself whetted
the appetite of the populace to blood, no wealth, no power, could prevent my
becoming their victim: and thou tellest me thy secret now, ere the trial be
over and the innocent condemned, to show what a desperate web of villainy
thy word to-morrow could destroy; to enhance in this, the ninth hour, the
price of thy forbearance; to show that my own arts, in arousing the popular
wrath, would, at thy witness, recoil upon myself; and that if not for
Glaucus, for me would gape the jaws of the lion! Is it not so?'
'Arbaces, replied Calenus, losing all the vulgar audacity of his natural
character, 'verily thou art a Magician; thou readest the heart as it were a
'It is my vocation,' answered the Egyptian, laughing gently. 'Well, then,
forbear; and when all is over, I will make thee rich.'
'Pardon me,' said the priest, as the quick suggestion of that avarice, which
was his master-passion, bade him trust no future chance of generosity;
'pardon me; thou saidst right--we know each other. If thou wouldst have me
silent, thou must pay something in advance, as an offer to Harpocrates.' If
the rose, sweet emblem of discretion, is to take root firmly, water her this
night with a stream of gold.'
'Witty and poetical!' answered Arbaces, still in that bland voice which
lulled and encouraged, when it ought to have alarmed and checked, his
griping comrade. 'Wilt thou not wait the morrow?'
'Why this delay? Perhaps, when I can no longer give my testimony without
shame for not having given it ere the innocent man suffered, thou wilt
forget my claim; and, indeed, thy present hesitation is a bad omen of thy
'Well, then, Calenus, what wouldst thou have me pay thee?'
'Thy life is, very precious, and thy wealth is very great,' returned the
'Wittier and more witty. But speak out--what shall be the sum?'
'Arbaces, I have heard that in thy secret treasury below, beneath those rude
Oscan arches which prop thy stately halls, thou hast piles of gold, of
vases, and of jewels, which might rival the receptacles of the wealth of the
deified Nero. Thou mayst easily spare out of those piles enough to make
Calenus among the richest priests of Pompeii, and yet not miss the loss.'
'Come, Calenus,' said Arbaces, winningly, and with a frank and generous air,
'thou art an old friend, and hast been a faithful servant. Thou canst have
no wish to take away my life, nor I a desire to stint thy reward: thou shalt
descend with me to that treasury thou referrest to, thou shalt feast thine
eyes with the blaze of uncounted gold and the sparkle of priceless gems; and
thou shalt for thy own reward, bear away with thee this night as much as
thou canst conceal beneath thy robes. Nay, when thou hast once seen what
thy friend possesses, thou wilt learn how foolish it would be to injure one
who has so much to bestow. When Glaucus is no more, thou shalt pay the
treasury another visit. Speak I frankly and as a friend?'
'Oh, greatest, best of men!' cried Calenus, almost weeping with joy, 'canst
thou thus forgive my injurious doubts of thy justice, thy generosity?'
'Hush! one other turn and we will descend to the Oscan arches.'
THE SLAVE CONSULTS THE ORACLE. THEY WHO BLIND THEMSELVES THE BLIND MAY
FOOL. TWO NEW PRISONERS MADE IN ONE NIGHT.
IMPATIENTLY Nydia awaited the arrival of the no less anxious Sosia.
Fortifying his courage by plentiful potations of a better liquor than that
provided for the demon, the credulous ministrant stole into the blind girl's
'Well, Sosia, and art thou prepared? Hast thou the bowl of pure water?'
'Verily, yes: but I tremble a little. You are sure I shall not see the
demon? I have heard that those gentlemen are by no means of a handsome
person or a civil demeanor.'
'Be assured! And hast thou left the garden-gate gently open?'
'Yes; and placed some beautiful nuts and apples on a little table close by?'
'That's well. And the gate is open now, so that the demon may pass through
'Surely it is.'
'Well, then, open this door; there--leave it just ajar. And now, Sosia,
give me the lamp.'
'What, you will not extinguish it?'
'No; but I must breathe my spell over its ray. There is a spirit in fire.
The slave obeyed; and Nydia, after bending for some moments silently over
the lamp, rose, and in a low voice chanted the following rude:
INVOCATION TO THE SPECTRE OF THE AIR
Loved alike by Air and Water
Aye must be Thessalia's daughter;
To us, Olympian hearts, are given
Spells that draw the moon from heaven.
All that Egypt's learning wrought--
All that Persia's Magian taught--
Won from song, or wrung from flowers,
Or whisper'd low by fiend--are ours.
Spectre of the viewless air!
Hear the blind Thessalian's prayer!
By Erictho's art, that shed
Dews of life when life was fled--
By lone Ithaca's wise king,
Who could wake the crystal spring
To the voice of prophecy?
By the lost Eurydice,
Summon'd from the shadowy throng,
As the muse-son's magic song--
By the Colchian's awful charms,
When fair-haired Jason left her arms-
Spectre of the airy halls,
One who owns thee duly calls!
Breathe along the brimming bowl,
And instruct the fearful soul
In the shadowy things that lie
Dark in dim futurity.
Come, wild demon of the air,
Answer to thy votary's prayer!
Come! oh, come!
And no god on heaven or earth--
Not the Paphian Queen of Mirth,
Not the vivid Lord of Light,
Nor the triple Maid of Night,
Nor the Thunderer's self shall be
Blest and honour'd more than thee!
Come! oh, come!
'The spectre is certainly coming,' said Sosia. 'I feel him running along my
'Place thy bowl of water on the ground. Now, then, give me thy napkin, and
let me fold up thy face and eyes.'
'Ay! that's always the custom with these charms. Not so tight, though:
'There--thou canst not see?'
'See, by Jupiter! No! nothing but darkness.'
'Address, then, to the spectre whatever question thou wouldst ask him, in a
low-whispered voice, three times. If thy question is answered in the
affirmative, thou wilt hear the water ferment and bubble before the demon
breathes upon it; if in the negative, the water will be quite silent.'
'But you will not play any trick with the water, eh?'
'Let me place the bowl under thy feet--so. Now thou wilt perceive that I
cannot touch it without thy knowledge.'
'Very fair. Now, then, O Bacchus! befriend me. Thou knowest that I have
always loved thee better than all the other gods, and I will dedicate to
thee that silver cup I stole last year from the burly carptor (butler), if
thou wilt but befriend me with this water-loving demon. And thou, O Spirit!
listen and hear me. Shall I be enabled to purchase my freedom next year?
Thou knowest; for, as thou livest in the air, the birds have doubtless
acquainted thee with every secret of this house,--thou knowest that I have
filched and pilfered all that I honestly--that is, safely--could lay finger
upon for the last three years, and I yet want two thousand sesterces of the
full sum. Shall I be able, O good Spirit! to make up the deficiency in the
course of this year? Speak--Ha! does the water bubble? No; all is as still
as a tomb.--Well, then, if not this year, in two years?--Ah! I hear
something; the demon is scratching at the door; he'll be here presently.--In
two years, my good fellow: come now, two; that's a very reasonable time.
What! dumb still! Two years and a half--three--four? ill fortune to you,
friend demon! You are not a lady, that's clear, or you would not keep
silence so long. Five--six--sixty years? and may Pluto seize you! I'll ask
no more.' And Sosia, in a rage, kicked down the water over his legs. He
then, after much fumbling and more cursing, managed to extricate his head
from the napkin in which it was completely folded--stared round--and
discovered that he was in the dark.
'What, ho! Nydia; the lamp is gone. Ah, traitress; and thou art gone too;
but I'll catch thee--thou shalt smart for this!' The slave groped his way to
the door; it was bolted from without: he was a prisoner instead of Nydia.
What could he do? He did not dare to knock loud--to call out--lest Arbaces
should overhear him, and discover how he had been duped; and Nydia,
meanwhile, had probably already gained the garden-gate, and was fast on her
'But,' thought he, 'she will go home, or, at least, be somewhere in the
city. To-morrow, at dawn, when the slaves are at work in the peristyle, I
can make myself heard; then I can go forth and seek her. I shall be sure to
find and bring her back, before Arbaces knows a word of the matter. Ah!
that's the best plan. Little traitress, my fingers itch at thee: and to
leave only a bowl of water, too! Had it been wine, it would have been some
While Sosia, thus entrapped, was lamenting his fate, and revolving his
schemes to repossess himself of Nydia, the blind girl, with that singular
precision and dexterous rapidity of motion, which, we have before observed,
was peculiar to her, had passed lightly along the peristyle, threaded the
opposite passage that led into the garden, and, with a beating heart, was
about to proceed towards the gate, when she suddenly heard the sound of
approaching steps, and distinguished the dreaded voice of Arbaces himself.
She paused for a moment in doubt and terror; then suddenly it flashed across
her recollection that there was another passage which was little used except
for the admission of the fair partakers of the Egyptian's secret revels, and
which wound along the basement of that massive fabric towards a door which
also communicated with the garden. By good fortune it might be open. At
that thought, she hastily retraced her steps, descended the narrow stairs at
the right, and was soon at the entrance of the passage. Alas! the door at
the entrance was closed and secured. While she was yet assuring herself that
it was indeed locked, she heard behind her the voice of Calenus, and, a
moment after, that of Arbaces in low reply. She could not stay there; they
were probably passing to that very door. She sprang onward, and felt
herself in unknown ground. The air grew damp and chill; this reassured her.
She thought she might be among the cellars of the luxurious mansion, or, at
least, in some rude spot not likely to be visited by its haughty lord, when
again her quick ear caught steps and the sound of voices. On, on, she
hurried, extending her arms, which now frequently encountered pillars of
thick and massive form. With a tact, doubled in acuteness by her fear, she
escaped these perils, and continued her way, the air growing more and more
damp as she proceeded; yet, still, as she ever and anon paused for breath,
she heard the advancing steps and the indistinct murmur of voices. At
length she was abruptly stopped by a wall that seemed the limit of her path.
Was there no spot in which she could hide? No aperture? no cavity? There
was none! She stopped, and wrung her hands in despair; then again, nerved
as the voices neared upon her, she hurried on by the side of the wall; and
coming suddenly against one of the sharp buttresses that here and there
jutted boldly forth, she fell to the ground. Though much bruised, her
senses did not leave her; she uttered no cry; nay, she hailed the accident
that had led her to something like a screen; and creeping close up to the
angle formed by the buttress, so that on one side at least she was sheltered
from view, she gathered her slight and small form into its smallest compass,
and breathlessly awaited her fate.
Meanwhile Arbaces and the priest were taking their way to that secret
chamber whose stores were so vaunted by the Egyptian. They were in a vast
subterranean atrium, or hall; the low roof was supported by short, thick
pillars of an architecture far remote from the Grecian graces of that
luxuriant period. The single and pale lamp, which Arbaces bore, shed but an
imperfect ray over the bare and rugged walls, in which the huge stones,
without cement, were fitted curiously and uncouthly into each other. The
disturbed reptiles glared dully on the intruders, and then crept into the
shadow of the walls.
Calenus shivered as he looked around and breathed the damp, unwholesome air.
'Yet,' said Arbaces, with a smile, perceiving his shudder, 'it is these rude
abodes that furnish the luxuries of the halls above. They are like the
laborers of the world--we despise their ruggedness, yet they feed the very
pride that disdains them.'
'And whither goes yon dim gallery to the left asked Calenus; 'in this depth
of gloom it seems without limit, as if winding into Hades.'
'On the contrary, it does but conduct to the upper rooms,' answered Arbaces,
carelessly: 'it is to the right that we steer to our bourn.'
The hall, like many in the more habitable regions of Pompeii, branched off
at the extremity into two wings or passages; the length of which, not really
great, was to the eye considerably exaggerated by the sudden gloom against
which the lamp so faintly struggled. To the right of these alae, the two
comrades now directed their steps.
'The gay Glaucus will be lodged to-morrow in apartments not much drier, and
far less spacious than this,' said Calenus, as they passed by the very spot
where, completely wrapped in the shadow of the broad, projecting buttress,
cowered the Thessalian.
'Ay, but then he will have dry room, and ample enough, in the arena on the
following day. And to think,' continued Arbaces, slowly, and very
deliberately--'to think that a word of thine could save him, and consign
Arbaces to his doom!'
'That word shall never be spoken,' said Calenus.
'Right, my Calenus! it never shall,' returned Arbaces, familiarly leaning
his arm on the priest's shoulder: 'and now, halt--we are at the door.'
The light trembled against a small door deep set in the wall, and guarded
strongly by many plates and bindings of iron, that intersected the rough and
dark wood. From his girdle Arbaces now drew a small ring, holding three or
four short but strong keys. Oh, how beat the griping heart of Calenus, as
he heard the rusty wards growl, as if resenting the admission to the
treasures they guarded!
'Enter, my friend,' said Arbaces, 'while I hold the lamp on high, that thou
mayst glut thine eyes on the yellow heaps.'
The impatient Calenus did not wait to be twice invited; he hastened towards
Scarce had he crossed the threshold, when the strong hand of Arbaces plunged
'The word shall never be spoken!' said the Egyptian, with a loud exultant
laugh, and closed the door upon the priest.
Calenus had been precipitated down several steps, but not feeling at the
moment the pain of his fall, he sprung up again to the door, and beating at
it fiercely with his clenched fist, he cried aloud in what seemed more a
beast's howl than a human voice, so keen was his agony and despair: 'Oh,
release me, release me, and I will ask no gold!'
The words but imperfectly penetrated the massive door, and Arbaces again
laughed. Then, stamping his foot violently, rejoined, perhaps to give vent
to his long-stifled passions:
'All the gold of Dalmatia,' cried he, 'will not buy thee a crust of bread.
Starve, wretch! thy dying groans will never wake even the echo of these vast
halls; nor will the air ever reveal, as thou gnawest, in thy desperate
famine, thy flesh from thy bones, that so perishes the man who threatened,
and could have undone, Arbaces! Farewell!'
'Oh, pity--mercy! Inhuman villain; was it for this...'
The rest of the sentence was lost to the ear of Arbaces as he passed
backward along the dim hall. A toad, plump and bloated, lay unmoving before
his path; the rays of the lamp fell upon its unshaped hideousness and red
upward eye. Arbaces turned aside that he might not harm it.
'Thou art loathsome and obscene,' he muttered, 'but thou canst not injure
me; therefore thou art safe in my path.'
The cries of Calenus, dulled and choked by the barrier that confined him,
yet faintly reached the ear of the Egyptian. He paused and listened
'This is unfortunate,' thought he; 'for I cannot sail till that voice is
dumb for ever. My stores and treasures lie, not in yon dungeon it is true,
but in the opposite wing. My slaves, as they move them, must not hear his
voice. But what fear of that? In three days, if he still survive, his
accents, by my father's beard, must be weak enough, then!--no, they could
not pierce even through his tomb. By Isis, it is cold!--I long for a deep
draught of the spiced Falernian.'
With that the remorseless Egyptian drew his gown closer round him, and
resought the upper air.
NYDIA ACCOSTS CALENUS.
WHAT words of terror, yet of hope, had Nydia overheard! The next day
Glaucus was to be condemned; yet there lived one who could save him, and
adjudge Arbaces to his doom, and that one breathed within a few steps of her
hiding-place! She caught his cries and shrieks--his imprecations--his
prayers, though they fell choked and muffled on her ear. He was imprisoned,
but she knew the secret of his cell: could she but escape--could she but
seek the praetor he might yet in time be given to light, and preserve the
Athenian. Her emotions almost stifled her; her brain reeled--she felt her
sense give way--but by a violent effort she mastered herself,--and, after
listening intently for several minutes, till she was convinced that Arbaces
had left the space to solitude and herself, she crept on as her ear guided
her to the very door that had closed upon Calenus. Here she more distinctly
caught his accents of terror and despair. Thrice she attempted to speak,
and thrice her voice failed to penetrate the folds of the heavy door. At
length finding the lock, she applied her lips to its small aperture, and the
prisoner distinctly heard a soft tone breathe his name.
His blood curdled--his hair stood on end. That awful solitude, what
mysterious and preternatural being could penetrate! 'Who's there?' he
cried, in new alarm; 'what spectre--what dread larva, calls upon the lost
'Priest,' replied the Thessalian, 'unknown to Arbaces, I have been, by the
permission of the gods, a witness to his perfidy. If I myself can escape
from these walls, I may save thee. But let thy voice reach my ear through
this narrow passage, and answer what I ask.'
'Ah, blessed spirit,' said the priest, exultingly, and obeying the
suggestion of Nydia, 'save me, and I will sell the very cups on the altar to
pay thy kindness.'
'I want not thy gold--I want thy secret. Did I hear aright? Canst thou save
the Athenian Glaucus from the charge against his life?'
'I can--I can!--therefore (may the Furies blast the foul Egyptian!) hath
Arbaces snared me thus, and left me to starve and rot!'
'They accuse the Athenian of murder: canst thou disprove the accusation?'
'Only free me, and the proudest head of Pompeii is not more safe than his.
I saw the deed done--I saw Arbaces strike the blow; I can convict the true
murderer and acquit the innocent man. But if I perish, he dies also. Dost
thou interest thyself for him? Oh, blessed stranger, in my heart is the urn
which condemns or frees him!'
'And thou wilt give full evidence of what thou knowest?'
'Will!--Oh! were hell at my feet--yes! Revenge on the false
As through his ground teeth Calenus shrieked forth those last words, Nydia
felt that in his worst passions was her certainty of his justice to the
Athenian. Her heart beat: was it to be her proud destiny to preserve her
idolized--her adored? Enough,' said she, 'the powers that conducted me
hither will carry me through all. Yes, I feel that I shall deliver thee.
Wait in patience and hope.'
'But be cautious, be prudent, sweet stranger. Attempt not to appeal to
Arbaces--he is marble. Seek the praetor--say what thou knowest--obtain his
writ of search; bring soldiers, and smiths of cunning--these locks are
wondrous strong! Time flies--I may starve--starve! if you are not quick!
Go--go! Yet stay--it is horrible to be alone!--the air is like a
charnel--and the scorpions--ha! and the pale larvae; oh! stay, stay!'
'Nay,' said Nydia, terrified by the terror of the priest, and anxious to
confer with herself--'nay, for thy sake, I must depart. Take hope for thy
So saying, she glided away, and felt with extended arms along the pillared
space until she had gained the farther end of the hall and the mouth of the
passage that led to the upper air. But there she paused; she felt that it
would be more safe to wait awhile, until the night was so far blended with
the morning that the whole house would be buried in sleep, and so that she
might quit it unobserved. she, therefore, once more laid herself down, and
counted the weary moments. In her sanguine heart, joy was the predominant
emotion. Glaucus was in deadly peril--but she should save him!
ARBACES AND IONE. NYDIA GAINS THE GARDEN. WILL SHE ESCAPE AND SAVE THE
WHEN Arbaces had warmed his veins by large draughts of that spiced and
perfumed wine so valued by the luxurious, he felt more than usually elated
and exultant of heart. There is a pride in triumphant ingenuity, not less
felt, perhaps, though its object be guilty. Our vain human nature hugs
itself in the consciousness of superior craft and self-obtained
success--afterwards comes the horrible reaction of remorse.
But remorse was not a feeling which Arbaces was likely ever to experience
for the fate of the base Calenus. He swept from his remembrance the thought
of the priest's agonies and lingering death: he felt only that a great
danger was passed, and a possible foe silenced; all left to him now would be
to account to the priesthood for the disappearance of Calenus; and this he
imagined it would not be difficult to do. Calenus had often been employed
by him in various religious missions to the neighboring cities. On some
such errand he could now assert that he had been sent, with offerings to the
shrines of Isis at Herculaneum and Neapolis, placatory of the goddess for
the recent murder of her priest Apaecides. When Calenus had expired, his
body might be thrown, previous to the Egyptian's departure from Pompeii,
into the deep stream of the Sarnus; and when discovered, suspicion would
probably fall upon the Nazarene atheists, as an act of revenge for the death
of Olinthus at the arena. After rapidly running over these plans for
screening himself, Arbaces dismissed at once from his mind all recollection
of the wretched priest; and, animated by the success which had lately
crowned all his schemes, he surrendered his thoughts to Ione. The last time
he had seen her, she had driven him from her presence by a reproachful and
bitter scorn, which his arrogant nature was unable to endure. He now felt
emboldened once more to renew that interview; for his passion for her was
like similar feelings in other men--it made him restless for her presence,
even though in that presence he was exasperated and humbled. From delicacy
to her grief he laid not aside his dark and unfestive robes, but, renewing
the perfumes on his raven locks, and arranging his tunic in its most
becoming folds, he sought the chamber of the Neapolitan. Accosting the
slave in attendance without, he inquired if Ione had yet retired to rest;
and learning that she was still up, and unusually quiet and composed, he
ventured into her presence. He found his beautiful ward sitting before a
small table, and leaning her face upon both her hands in the attitude of
thought. Yet the expression of the face itself possessed not its wonted
bright and Psyche-like expression of sweet intelligence; the lips were
apart--the eye vacant and unheeding--and the long dark hair, falling
neglected and disheveled upon her neck, gave by the contrast additional
paleness to a cheek which had already lost the roundness of its contour.
Arbaces gazed upon her a moment ere he advanced. She, too, lifted up her
eyes; and when she saw who was the intruder, shut them with an expression of
pain, but did not stir.
'Ah!' said Arbaces in a low and earnest tone as he respectfully, nay,
humbly, advanced and seated himself at a little distance from the
table--'Ah! that my death could remove thy hatred, then would I gladly die!
Thou wrongest me, Ione; but I will bear the wrong without a murmur, only let
me see thee sometimes. Chide, reproach, scorn me, if thou wilt--I will
teach myself to bear it. And is not even thy bitterest tone sweeter to me
than the music of the most artful lute? In thy silence the world seems to
stand still--a stagnation curdles up the veins of the earth--there is no
earth, no life, without the light of thy countenance and the melody of thy
'Give me back my brother and my betrothed,' said Ione, in a calm and
imploring tone, and a few large tears rolled unheeded down her cheeks.
'Would that I could restore the one and save the other!' returned Arbaces,
with apparent emotion. 'Yes; to make thee happy I would renounce my
ill-fated love, and gladly join thy hand to the Athenian's. Perhaps he will
yet come unscathed from his trial (Arbaces had prevented her learning that
the trial had already commenced); if so, thou art free to judge or condemn
him thyself. And think not, O Ione, that I would follow thee longer with a
prayer of love. I know it is in vain. Suffer me only to weep--to mourn
with thee. Forgive a violence deeply repented, and that shall offend no
more. Let me be to thee only what I once was--a friend, a father, a
Protector. Ah, Ione! spare me and forgive.'
'I forgive thee. Save but Glaucus, and I will renounce him. O mighty
Arbaces! thou art powerful in evil or in good: save the Athenian, and the
poor Ione will never see him more.' As she spoke, she rose with weak and
trembling limbs, and falling at his feet, she clasped his knees: 'Oh! if
thou really lovest me--if thou art human--remember my father's ashes,
remember my childhood, think of all the hours we passed happily together,
and save my Glaucus!'
Strange convulsions shook the frame of the Egyptian; his features worked
fearfully--he turned his face aside, and said, in a hollow voice, 'If I
could save him, even now, I would; but the Roman law is stern and sharp.
Yet if I could succeed--if I could rescue and set him free--wouldst thou be
'Thine?' repeated Ione, rising: 'thine!--thy bride? My brother's blood is
unavenged: who slew him? O Nemesis, can I even sell, for the life of
Glaucus, thy solemn trust? Arbaces--thine? Never.'
'Ione, Ione!' cried Arbaces, passionately; 'why these mysterious words?--why
dost thou couple my name with the thought of thy brother's death?'
'My dreams couple it--and dreams are from the gods.'
'Vain fantasies all! Is it for a dream that thou wouldst wrong the
innocent, and hazard thy sole chance of saving thy lover's life?'
'Hear me!' said Ione, speaking firmly, and with a deliberate and solemn
voice: 'If Glaucus be saved by thee, I will never be borne to his home a
bride. But I cannot master the horror of other rites: I cannot wed with
thee. Interrupt me not; but mark me, Arbaces!--if Glaucus die, on that same
day I baffle thine arts, and leave to thy love only my dust! Yes--thou
mayst put the knife and the poison from my reach--thou mayst imprison--thou
mayst chain me, but the brave soul resolved to escape is never without
means. These hands, naked and unarmed though they be, shall tear away the
bonds of life. Fetter them, and these lips shall firmly refuse the air.
Thou art learned--thou hast read how women have died rather than meet
dishonour. If Glaucus perish, I will not unworthily linger behind him. By
all the gods of the heaven, and the ocean, and the earth, I devote myself to
death! I have said!'
High, proud, dilating in her stature, like one inspired, the air and voice
of Ione struck an awe into the breast of her listener.
'Brave heart!' said he, after a short pause; 'thou art indeed worthy to be
mine. Oh! that I should have dreamt of such a partner in my lofty
destinies, and never found it but in thee! Ione,' he continued rapidly,
'dost thou not see that we are born for each other? Canst thou not recognize
something kindred to thine own energy--thine own courage--in this high and
self-dependent soul? We were formed to unite our sympathies--formed to
breathe a new spirit into this hackneyed and gross world--formed for the
mighty ends which my soul, sweeping down the gloom of time, foresees with a
prophet's vision. With a resolution equal to thine own, I defy thy threats
of an inglorious suicide. I hail thee as my own! Queen of climes
undarkened by the eagle's wing, unravaged by his beak, I bow before thee in
homage and in awe--but I claim thee in worship and in love! Together will we
cross the ocean--together will we found our realm; and far distant ages
shall acknowledge the long race of kings born from the marriage-bed of
Arbaces and Ione!'
'Thou ravest! These mystic declamations are suited rather to some palsied
crone selling charms in the market-place than to the wise Arbaces. Thou
hast heard my resolution--it is fixed as the Fates themselves. Orcus has
heard my vow, and it is written in the book of the unforgetful Hades.
Atone, then, O Arbaces!--atone the past: convert hatred into
regard--vengeance into gratitude; preserve one who shall never be thy rival.
These are acts suited to thy original nature, which gives forth sparks of
something high and noble. They weigh in the scales of the Kings of Death:
they turn the balance on that day when the disembodied soul stands shivering
and dismayed between Tartarus and Elysium; they gladden the heart in life,
better and longer than the reward of a momentary passion. Oh, Arbaces! hear
me, and be swayed!'
'Enough, Ione. All that I can do for Glaucus shall be done; but blame me
not if I fail. Inquire of my foes, even, if I have not sought, if I do not
seek, to turn aside the sentence from his head; and judge me accordingly.
Sleep then, Ione. Night wanes; I leave thee to rest--and mayst thou have
kinder dreams of one who has no existence but in thine.'
Without waiting a reply, Arbaces hastily withdrew; afraid, perhaps, to trust
himself further to the passionate prayer of Ione, which racked him with
jealousy, even while it touched him to compassion. But compassion itself
came too late. Had Ione even pledged him her hand as his reward, he could
not now--his evidence given--the populace excited--have saved the Athenian.
Still made sanguine by his very energy of mind, he threw himself on the
chances of the future, and believed he should yet triumph over the woman
that had so entangled his passions.
As his attendants assisted to unrobe him for the night, the thought of Nydia
flashed across him. He felt it was necessary that Ione should never learn
of her lover's frenzy, lest it might excuse his imputed crime; and it was
possible that her attendants might inform her that Nydia was under his roof,
and she might desire to see her. As this idea crossed him, he turned to one
of his freedmen:
'Go, Callias,' said he, 'forthwith to Sosia, and tell him, that on no
pretence is he to suffer the blind slave Nydia out of her chamber. But,
stay--first seek those in attendance upon my ward, and caution them not to
inform her that the blind girl is under my roof Go--quick!'
The freedman hastened to obey. After having discharged his commission with
respect to Ione's attendants, he sought the worthy Sosia. He found him not
in the little cell which was apportioned for his cubiculum; he called his
name aloud, and from Nydia's chamber, close at hand, he heard the voice of
'Oh, Callias, is it you that I hear?--the gods be praised!' Open the door, I
Callias withdrew the bolt, and the rueful face of Sosia hastily protruded
'What!--in the chamber with that young girl, Sosia! Proh pudor! Are there
not fruits ripe enough on the wall, but that thou must tamper with such
'Name not the little witch!' interrupted Sosia, impatiently; 'she will be my
ruin!' And he forthwith imparted to Callias the history of the Air Demon,
and the escape of the Thessalian.
'Hang thyself, then, unhappy Sosia! I am just charged from Arbaces with a
message to thee; on no account art thou to suffer her, even for a moment,
from that chamber!'
'Me miserum!' exclaimed the slave. 'What can I do!--by this time she may
have visited half Pompeii. But tomorrow I will undertake to catch her in
her old haunts. Keep but my counsel, my dear Callias.'
'I will do all that friendship can, consistent with my own safety. But are
you sure she has left the house?--she may be hiding here yet.'
'How is that possible? She could easily have gained the garden; and the
door, as I told thee, was open.'
'Nay, not so; for, at that very hour thou specifiest, Arbaces was in the
garden with the priest Calenus. I went there in search of some herbs for my
master's bath to-morrow. I saw the table set out; but the gate I am sure
was shut: depend upon it, that Calenus entered by the garden, and naturally
closed the door after him.'
'But it was not locked.'
'Yes; for I myself, angry at a negligence which might expose the bronzes in
the peristyle to the mercy of any robber, turned the key, took it away,
and--as I did not see the proper slave to whom to give it, or I should have
rated him finely--here it actually is, still in my girdle.'
'Oh, merciful Bacchus! I did not pray to thee in vain, after all. Let us
not lose a moment! Let us to the garden instantly--she may yet be there!'
The good-natured Callias consented to assist the slave; and after vainly
searching the chambers at hand, and the recesses of the peristyle, they
entered the garden.
It was about this time that Nydia had resolved to quit her hiding-place, and
venture forth on her way. Lightly, tremulously holding her breath, which
ever and anon broke forth in quick convulsive gasps--now gliding by the
flower--wreathed columns that bordered the peristyle--now darkening the
still moonshine that fell over its tessellated centre--now ascending the
terrace of the garden--now gliding amidst the gloomy and breathless trees,
she gained the fatal door--to find it locked! We have all seen that
expression of pain, of uncertainty, of fear, which a sudden disappointment
of touch, if I may use the expression, casts over the face of the blind.
But what words can paint the intolerable woe, the sinking of the whole
heart, which was now visible on the features of the Thessalian? Again and
again her small, quivering hands wandered to and fro the inexorable door.
Poor thing that thou wert! in vain had been all thy noble courage, thy
innocent craft, thy doublings to escape the hound and huntsmen! Within but
a few yards from thee, laughing at thy endeavors--thy despair--knowing thou
wert now their own, and watching with cruel patience their own moment to
seize their prey--thou art saved from seeing thy pursuers!
'Hush, Callias!--let her go on. Let us see what she will do when she has
convinced herself that the door is honest.'
'Look! she raises her face to the heavens--she mutters--she sinks down
despondent! No! by Pollux, she has some new scheme! She will not resign
herself! By Jupiter, a tough spirit! See, she springs up--she retraces her
steps--she thinks of some other chance!--I advise thee, Sosia, to delay no
longer: seize her ere she quit the garden--now!'
'Ah! runaway! I have thee--eh?' said Sosia, seizing upon the unhappy Nydia.
As a hare's last human cry in the fangs of the dogs--as the sharp voice of
terror uttered by a sleep-walker suddenly awakened--broke the shriek of the
blind girl, when she felt the abrupt gripe of her gaoler. It was a shriek
of such utter agony, such entire despair, that it might have rung hauntingly
in your ears for ever. She felt as if the last plank of the sinking Glaucus
were torn from his clasp! It had been a suspense of life and death; and
death had now won the game.
'Gods! that cry will alarm the house! Arbaces sleeps full lightly. Gag
her!' cried Callias.
'Ah! here is the very napkin with which the young witch conjured away my
reason! Come, that's right; now thou art dumb as well as blind.'
And, catching the light weight in his arms, Sosia soon gained the house, and
reached the chamber from which Nydia had escaped. There, removing the gag,
he left her to a solitude so racked and terrible, that out of Hades its
anguish could scarcely be exceeded.
THE SORROW OF BOON COMPANIONS FOR OUR AFFLICTIONS. THE DUNGEON AND ITS
IT was now late on the third and last day of the trial of Glaucus and
Olinthus. A few hours after the court had broken up and judgment been
given, a small party of the fashionable youth at Pompeii were assembled
round the fastidious board of Lepidus.
'So Glaucus denies his crime to the last?' said Clodius.
'Yes; but the testimony of Arbaces was convincing; he saw the blow given,'
'What could have been the cause?'
'Why, the priest was a gloomy and sullen fellow. He probably rated Glaucus
soundly about his gay life and gaming habits, and ultimately swore he would
not consent to his marriage with Ione. High words arose; Glaucus seems to
have been full of the passionate god, and struck in sudden exasperation.
The excitement of wine, the desperation of abrupt remorse, brought on the
delirium under which he suffered for some days; and I can readily imagine,
poor fellow! that, yet confused by that delirium, he is even now unconscious
of the crime he committed! Such, at least, is the shrewd conjecture of
Arbaces, who seems to have been most kind and forbearing in his testimony.'
'Yes; he has made himself generally popular by it. But, in consideration of
these extenuating circumstances, the senate should have relaxed the
'And they would have done so, but for the people; but they were outrageous.
The priest had spared no pains to excite them; and they imagined--the
ferocious brutes!--because Glaucus was a rich man and a gentleman, that he
was likely to escape; and therefore they were inveterate against him, and
doubly resolved upon his sentence. It seems, by some accident or other,
that he was never formally enrolled as a Roman citizen; and thus the senate
is deprived of the power to resist the people, though, after all, there was
but a majority of three against him. Ho! the Chian!'
'He looks sadly altered; but how composed and fearless!'
'Ay, we shall see if his firmness will last over to-morrow.' But what merit
in courage, when that atheistical hound, Olinthus, manifested the same?'
'The blasphemer! Yes,' said Lepidus, with pious wrath, 'no wonder that one
of the decurions was, but two days ago, struck dead by lightning in a serene
sky.' The gods feel vengeance against Pompeii while the vile desecrator is
alive within its walls.'
'Yet so lenient was the senate, that had he but expressed his penitence, and
scattered a few grains of incense on the altar of Cybele, he would have been
let off. I doubt whether these Nazarenes, had they the state religion,
would be as tolerant to us, supposing we had kicked down the image of their
Deity, blasphemed their rites, and denied their faith.'
'They give Glaucus one chance, in consideration of the circumstances; they
allow him, against the lion, the use of the same stilus wherewith he smote
'Hast thou seen the lion? hast thou looked at his teeth and fangs, and wilt
thou call that a chance? Why, sword and buckler would be mere reed and
papyrus against the rush of the mighty beast! No, I think the true mercy
has been, not to leave him long in suspense; and it was therefore fortunate
for him that our benign laws are slow to pronounce, but swift to execute;
and that the games of the amphitheatre had been, by a sort of providence, so
long since fixed for to-morrow. He who awaits death, dies twice.'
'As for the Atheist, said Clodius, 'he is to cope the grim tiger
naked-handed. Well, these combats are past betting on. Who will take the
odds?' A peal of laughter announced the ridicule of the question.
'Poor Clodius!' said the host; I to lose a friend is something; but to find
no one to bet on the chance of his escape is a worse misfortune to thee.'
'Why, it is provoking; it would have been some consolation to him and to me
to think he was useful to the last.'
'The people,' said the grave Pansa, 'are all delighted with the result.
They were so much afraid the sports at the amphitheatre would go off without
a criminal for the beasts; and now, to get two such criminals is indeed a
joy for the poor fellows! They work hard; they ought to have some
'There speaks the popular Pansa, who never moves without a string of clients
as long as an Indian triumph. He is always prating about the people. Gods!
he will end by being a Gracchus!'
'Certainly I am no insolent patrician,' said Pansa, with a generous air.
'Well,' observed Lepidus, it would have been assuredly dangerous to have
been merciful at the eve of a beast-fight. If ever I, though a Roman bred
and born, come to be tried, pray Jupiter there may be either no beasts in
the vivaria, or plenty of criminals in the gaol.'
'And pray,' said one of the party, 'what has become of the poor girl whom
Glaucus was to have married? A widow without being a bride--that is hard!'
'Oh,' returned Clodius, 'she is safe under the protection of her guardian,
Arbaces. It was natural she should go to him when she had lost both lover
'By sweet Venus, Glaucus was fortunate among the women. They say the rich
Julia was in love with him.'
'A mere fable, my friend,' said Clodius, coxcombically; 'I was with her
to-day. If any feeling of the sort she ever conceived, I flatter myself
that I have consoled her.'
'Hush, gentlemen!' said Pansa; 'do you not know that Clodius is employed at
the house of Diomed in blowing hard at the torch? It begins to burn, and
will soon shine bright on the shrine of Hymen.'
'Is it so?' said Lepidus. 'What! Clodius become a married man?--Fie!'
'Never fear,' answered Clodius; 'old Diomed is delighted at the notion of
marrying his daughter to a nobleman, and will come down largely with the
sesterces. You will see that I shall not lock them up in the atrium. It
will be a white day for his jolly friends, when Clodius marries an heiress.'
'Say you so?' cried Lepidus; 'come, then, a full cup to the health of the
While such was the conversation--one not discordant to the tone of mind
common among the dissipated of that day, and which might perhaps, a century
ago, have found an echo in the looser circles of Paris--while such, I say,
was the conversation in the gaudy triclinium of Lepidus, far different the
scene which scowled before the young Athenian.
After his condemnation, Glaucus was admitted no more to the gentle
guardianship of Sallust, the only friend of his distress. He was led along
the forum till the guards stopped at a small door by the side of the temple
of Jupiter. You may see the place still. The door opened in the centre in
a somewhat singular fashion, revolving round on its hinges, as it were, like
a modern turnstile, so as only to leave half the threshold open at the same
time. Through this narrow aperture they thrust the prisoner, placed before
him a loaf and a pitcher of water, and left him to darkness, and, as he
thought, to solitude. So sudden had been that revolution of fortune which
had prostrated him from the palmy height of youthful pleasure and successful
love to the lowest abyss of ignominy, and the horror of a most bloody death,
that he could scarcely convince himself that he was not held in the meshes
of some fearful dream. His elastic and glorious frame had triumphed over a
potion, the greater part of which he had fortunately not drained. He had
recovered sense and consciousness, but still a dim and misty depression
clung to his nerves and darkened his mind. His natural courage, and the
Greek nobility of pride, enabled him to vanquish all unbecoming
apprehension, and, in the judgment-court, to face his awful lot with a
steady mien and unquailing eye. But the consciousness of innocence scarcely
sufficed to support him when the gaze of men no longer excited his haughty
valor, and he was left to loneliness and silence. He felt the damps of the
dungeon sink chillingly into his enfeebled frame. He--the fastidious, the
luxurious, the refined--he who had hitherto braved no hardship and known no
sorrow. Beautiful bird that he was! why had he left his far and sunny
clime--the olive-groves of his native hills--the music of immemorial
streams? Why had he wantoned on his glittering plumage amidst these harsh
and ungenial strangers, dazzling the eyes with his gorgeous hues, charming
the ear with his blithesome song--thus suddenly to be arrested--caged in
darkness--a victim and a prey--his gay flights for ever over--his hymns of
gladness for ever stilled! The poor Athenian! his very faults the
exuberance of a gentle and joyous nature, how little had his past career
fitted him for the trials he was destined to undergo! The hoots of the mob,
amidst whose plaudits he had so often guided his graceful car and bounding
steeds, still rang gratingly in his ear. The cold and stony faces of former
friends (the co-mates of merry revels) still rose before his eye. None now
were by to soothe, to sustain, the admired, the adulated stranger. These
walls opened but on the dread arena of a violent and shameful death. And
Ione! of her, too, he had heard naught; no encouraging word, no pitying
message; she, too, had forsaken him; she believed him guilty--and of what
crime?--the murder of a brother! He ground his teeth--he groaned aloud--and
ever and anon a sharp fear shot across him. In that fell and fierce
delirium which had so unaccountably seized his soul, which had so ravaged
the disordered brain, might he not, indeed, unknowing to himself, have
committed the crime of which he was accused? Yet, as the thought flashed
upon him, it was as suddenly checked; for, amidst all the darkness of the
past, he thought distinctly to recall the dim grove of Cybele, the upward
face of the pale dead, the pause that he had made beside the corpse, and the
sudden shock that felled him to the earth. He felt convinced of his
innocence; and yet who, to the latest time, long after his mangled remains
were mingled with the elements, would believe him guiltless, or uphold his
fame? As he recalled his interview with Arbaces, and the causes of revenge
which had been excited in the heart of that dark and fearful man, he could
not but believe that he was the victim of some deep-laid and mysterious
snare--the clue and train of which he was lost in attempting to discover:
and Ione--Arbaces loved her--might his rival's success be founded upon his
ruin? That thought cut him more deeply than all; and his noble heart was
more stung by jealousy than appalled by fear. Again he groaned aloud.
A voice from the recess of the darkness answered that burst of anguish.
'Who (it said) is my companion in this awful hour? Athenian Glaucus, it is
'So, indeed, they called me in mine hour of fortune: they may have other
names for me now. And thy name, stranger?'
'Is Olinthus, thy co-mate in the prison as the trial.'
'What! he whom they call the Atheist? Is it the injustice of men that hath
taught thee to deny the providence of the gods?'
'Alas!' answered Olinthus: 'thou, not I, art the true Atheist, for thou
deniest the sole true God--the Unknown One--to whom thy Athenian fathers
erected an altar. It is in this hour that I know my God. He is with me in
the dungeon; His smile penetrates the darkness; on the eve of death my heart
whispers immortality, and earth recedes from me but to bring the weary soul
nearer unto heaven.'
'Tell me,' said Glaucus, abruptly, 'did I not hear thy name coupled with
that of Apaecides in my trial? Dost thou believe me guilty?'
'God alone reads the heart! but my suspicion rested not upon thee.'
'On whom then?'
'Thy accuser, Arbaces.'
'Ha! thou cheerest me: and wherefore?'
'Because I know the man's evil breast, and he had cause to fear him who is
With that, Olinthus proceeded to inform Glaucus of those details which the
reader already knows, the conversion of Apaecides, the plan they had
proposed for the detection of the impostures of the Egyptian upon the
youthful weakness of the proselyte. 'Therefore,' concluded Olinthus, 'had
the deceased encountered Arbaces, reviled his treasons, and threatened
detection, the place, the hour, might have favored the wrath of the
Egyptian, and passion and craft alike dictated the fatal blow.'
'It must have been so!' cried Glaucus, joyfully. 'I am happy.'
'Yet what, O unfortunate! avails to thee now the discovery? Thou art
condemned and fated; and in thine innocence thou wilt perish.'
'But I shall know myself guiltless; and in my mysterious madness I had
fearful, though momentary, doubts. Yet tell me, man of a strange creed,
thinkest thou that for small errors, or for ancestral faults, we are for
ever abandoned and accursed by the powers above, whatever name thou
allottest to them?'
'God is just, and abandons not His creatures for their mere human frailty.
God is merciful, and curses none but the wicked who repent not.'
'Yet it seemeth to me as if, in the divine anger, I had been smitten by a
sudden madness, a supernatural and solemn frenzy, wrought not by human
'There are demons on earth,' answered the Nazarene, fearfully, 'as well as
there are God and His Son in heaven; and since thou acknowledgest not the
last, the first may have had power over thee.'
Glaucus did not reply, and there was a silence for some minutes. At length
the Athenian said, in a changed, and soft, and half-hesitating voice.
'Christian, believest thou, among the doctrines of thy creed, that the dead
live again--that they who have loved here are united hereafter--that beyond
the grave our good name shines pure from the mortal mists that unjustly dim
it in the gross-eyed world--and that the streams which are divided by the
desert and the rock meet in the solemn Hades, and flow once more into one?'
'Believe I that, O Athenian No, I do not believe--I know! and it is that
beautiful and blessed assurance which supports me now. O Cyllene!'
continued Olinthus, passionately, 'bride of my heart! torn from me in the
first month of our nuptials,' shall I not see thee yet, and ere many days be
past? Welcome, welcome death, that will bring me to heaven and thee!'
There was something in this sudden burst of human affection which struck a
kindred chord in the soul of the Greek. He felt, for the first time, a
sympathy greater than mere affliction between him and his companion. He
crept nearer towards Olinthus; for the Italians, fierce in some points, were
not unnecessarily cruel in others; they spared the separate cell and the
superfluous chain, and allowed the victims of the arena the sad comfort of
such freedom and such companionship as the prison would afford.
'Yes,' continued the Christian, with holy fervor, 'the immortality of the
soul--the resurrection--the reunion of the dead--is the great principle of
our creed--the great truth a God suffered death itself to attest and
proclaim. No fabled Elysium--no poetic Orcus--but a pure and radiant
heritage of heaven itself, is the portion of the good.'
'Tell me, then, thy doctrines, and expound to me thy hopes,' said Glaucus,
Olinthus was not slow to obey that prayer; and there--as oftentimes in the
early ages of the Christian creed--it was in the darkness of the dungeon,
and over the approach of death, that the dawning Gospel shed its soft and
A CHANCE FOR GLAUCUS.
THE hours passed in lingering torture over the head of Nydia from the time
in which she had been replaced in her cell.
Sosia, as if afraid he should be again outwitted, had refrained from
visiting her until late in the morning of the following day, and then he but
thrust in the periodical basket of food and wine, and hastily reclosed the
door. That day rolled on, and Nydia felt herself pent--barred--inexorably
confined, when that day was the judgment-day of Glaucus, and when her
release would have saved him! Yet knowing, almost impossible as seemed her
escape, that the sole chance for the life of Glaucus rested on her, this
young girl, frail, passionate, and acutely susceptible as she was--resolved
not to give way to a despair that would disable her from seizing whatever
opportunity might occur. She kept her senses whenever, beneath the whirl of
intolerable thought, they reeled and tottered; nay, she took food and wine
that she might sustain her strength--that she might be prepared!
She revolved scheme after scheme of escape, and was forced to dismiss all.
Yet Sosia was her only hope, the only instrument with which she could
tamper. He had been superstitious in the desire of ascertaining whether he
could eventually purchase his freedom. Blessed gods! might he not be won by
the bribe of freedom itself? was she not nearly rich enough to purchase it?
Her slender arms were covered with bracelets, the presents of Ione; and on
her neck she yet wore that very chain which, it may be remembered, had
occasioned her jealous quarrel with Glaucus, and which she had afterwards
promised vainly to wear for ever. She waited burningly till Sosia should
again appear: but as hour after hour passed, and he came not, she grew
impatient. Every nerve beat with fever; she could endure the solitude no
longer--she groaned, she shrieked aloud--she beat herself against the door.
Her cries echoed along the hall, and Sosia, in peevish anger, hastened to
see what was the matter, and silence his prisoner if possible.
'Ho! ho! what is this?' said he, surlily. 'Young slave, if thou screamest
out thus, we must gag thee again. My shoulders will smart for it, if thou
art heard by my master.'
'Kind Sosia, chide me not--I cannot endure to be so long alone,' answered
Nydia; 'the solitude appals me. Sit with me, I pray, a little while. Nay,
fear not that I should attempt to escape; place thy seat before the door.
Keep thine eye on me--I will not stir from this spot.'
Sosia, who was a considerable gossip himself, was moved by this address. He
pitied one who had nobody to talk with--it was his case too; he pitied--and
resolved to relieve himself. He took the hint of Nydia, placed a stool
before the door, leant his back against it, and replied:
'I am sure I do not wish to be churlish; and so far as a little innocent
chat goes, I have no objection to indulge you. But mind, no tricks--no more
'No, no; tell me, dear Sosia, what is the hour?'
'It is already evening--the goats are going home.'
'O gods! how went the trial'
Nydia repressed the shriek. 'Well--well, I thought it would be so. When do
'To-morrow, in the amphitheatre. If it were not for thee, little wretch, I
should be allowed to go with the rest and see it.'
Nydia leant back for some moments. Nature could endure no more--she had
fainted away. But Sosia did not perceive it, for it was the dusk of eve,
and he was full of his own privations. He went on lamenting the loss of so
delightful a show, and accusing the injustice of Arbaces for singling him
out from all his fellows to be converted into a gaoler; and ere he had half
finished, Nydia, with a deep sigh, recovered the sense of life.
'Thou sighest, blind one, at my loss! Well, that is some comfort. So long
as you acknowledge how much you cost me, I will endeavor not to grumble. It
is hard to be ill-treated, and yet not pitied.'
'Sosia, how much dost thou require to make up the purchase of thy freedom?'
'How much? Why, about two thousand sesterces.'
'The gods be praised! not more? Seest thou these bracelets and this chain?
They are well worth double that sum. I will give them thee if...'
'Tempt me not: I cannot release thee. Arbaces is a severe and awful master.
Who knows but I might feed the fishes of the Sarnus Alas! all the sesterces
in the world would not buy me back into life. Better a live dog than a dead
'Sosia, thy freedom! Think well! If thou wilt let me out only for one
little hour!--let me out at midnight--I will return ere to-morrow's dawn;
nay, thou canst go with me.'
'No,' said Sosia, sturdily, 'a slave once disobeyed Arbaces, and he was
never more heard of.'
'But the law gives a master no power over the life of a slave.'
'The law is very obliging, but more polite than efficient. I know that
Arbaces always gets the law on his side. Besides, if I am once dead, what
law can bring me to life again!'
Nydia wrung her hands. 'Is there no hope, then?' said she, convulsively.
'None of escape till Arbaces gives the word.'
'Well, then, said Nydia, quickly, 'thou wilt not, at least, refuse to take a
letter for me: thy master cannot kill thee for that.'
'To a magistrate? No--not I. I should be made a witness in court, for what
I know; and the way they cross-examine the slaves is by the torture.'
'Pardon: I meant not the praetor--it was a word that escaped me unawares: I
meant quite another person--the gay Sallust.'
'Oh! and what want you with him?'
'Glaucus was my master; he purchased me from a cruel lord. He alone has
been kind to me. He is to die. I shall never live happily if I cannot, in
his hour of trial and doom, let him know that one heart is grateful to him.
Sallust is his friend; he will convey my message.'
'I am sure he will do no such thing. Glaucus will have enough to think of
between this and to-morrow without troubling his head about a blind girl.'
'Man,' said Nydia, rising, 'wilt thou become free? Thou hast the offer in
thy power; to-morrow it will be too late. Never was freedom more cheaply
purchased. Thou canst easily and unmissed leave home: less than half an
hour will suffice for thine absence. And for such a trifle wilt thou refuse
Sosia was greatly moved. It was true that the request was remarkably silly;
but what was that to him? So much the better. He could lock the door on
Nydia, and, if Arbaces should learn his absence, the offence was venial, and
would merit but a reprimand. Yet, should Nydia's letter contain something
more than what she had said--should it speak of her imprisonment, as he
shrewdly conjectured it would do--what then! It need never be known to
Arbaces that he had carried the letter. At the worst the bribe was
enormous--the risk light--the temptation irresistible. He hesitated no
longer--he assented to the proposal.
'Give me the trinkets, and I will take the letter. Yet stay--thou art a
slave--thou hast no right to these ornaments--they are thy master's.'
'They were the gifts of Glaucus; he is my master. What chance hath he to
claim them? Who else will know they are in my possession?'
'Enough--I will bring thee the papyrus.'
'No, not papyrus--a tablet of wax and a stilus.'
Nydia, as the reader will have seen, was born of gentle parents. They had
done all to lighten her calamity, and her quick intellect seconded their
exertions. Despite her blindness, she had therefore acquired in childhood,
though imperfectly, the art to write with the sharp stilus upon waxen
tablets, in which her exquisite sense of touch came to her aid. When the
tablets were brought to her, she thus painfully traced some words in Greek,
the language of her childhood, and which almost every Italian of the higher
ranks was then supposed to know. She carefully wound round the epistle the
thread, and covered its knot with wax; and ere she placed it in the hands of
Sosia, she thus addressed him:
'Sosia, I am blind and in prison. Thou mayst think to deceive me--thou
mayst pretend only to take the letter to Sallust--thou mayst not fulfill thy
charge: but here I solemnly dedicate thy head to vengeance, thy soul to the
infernal powers, if thou wrongest thy trust; and I call upon thee to place
thy right hand of faith in mine, and repeat after me these words: "By the
ground on which we stand--by the elements which contain life and can curse
life--by Orcus, the all-avenging--by the Olympian Jupiter, the all-seeing--I
swear that I will honestly discharge my trust, and faithfully deliver into
the hands of Sallust this letter! And if I perjure myself in this oath, may
the full curses of heaven and hell be wreaked upon me!" Enough!--I trust
thee--take thy reward. It is already dark--depart at once.'
'Thou art a strange girl, and thou hast frightened me terribly; but it is
all very natural: and if Sallust is to be found, I give him this letter as I
have sworn. By my faith, I may have my little peccadilloes! but
perjury--no! I leave that to my betters.'
With this Sosia withdrew, carefully passing the heavy bolt athwart Nydia's
door--carefully locking its wards: and, hanging the key to his girdle, he
retired to his own den, enveloped himself from head to foot in a huge
disguising cloak, and slipped out by the back way undisturbed and unseen.
The streets were thin and empty. He soon gained the house of Sallust. The
porter bade him leave his letter, and be gone; for Sallust was so grieved at
the condemnation of Glaucus, that he could not on any account be disturbed.
'Nevertheless, I have sworn to give this letter into his own hands--do so I
must!' And Sosia, well knowing by experience that Cerberus loves a sop,
thrust some half a dozen sesterces into the hand of the porter.
'Well, well,' said the latter, relenting, 'you may enter if you will; but,
to tell you the truth, Sallust is drinking himself out of his grief. It is
his way when anything disturbs him. He orders a capital supper, the best
wine, and does not give over till everything is out of his head--but the
'An excellent plan--excellent! Ah, what it is to be rich! If I were
Sallust, I would have some grief or another every day. But just say a kind
word for me with the atriensis--I see him coming.'
Sallust was too sad to receive company; he was too sad, also, to drink
alone; so, as was his wont, he admitted his favorite freedman to his
entertainment, and a stranger banquet never was held. For ever and anon,
the kind-hearted epicure sighed, whimpered, wept outright, and then turned
with double zest to some new dish or his refilled goblet.
'My good fellow,' said he to his companion, it was a most awful
judgment--heigho!--it is not bad that kid, eh? Poor, dear Glaucus!--what a
jaw the lion has too! Ah, ah, ah!'
And Sallust sobbed loudly--the fit was stopped by a counteraction of
'Take a cup of wine,' said the freedman.
'A thought too cold: but then how cold Glaucus must be! Shut up the house
to-morrow--not a slave shall stir forth--none of my people shall honour that
cursed arena--No, no!'
'Taste the Falernian--your grief distracts you. By the gods it does--a
piece of that cheesecake.'
It was at this auspicious moment that Sosia was admitted to the presence of
the disconsolate carouser.
'Ho--what art thou?'
'Merely a messenger to Sallust. I give him this billet from a young female.
There is no answer that I know of. May I withdraw?'
Thus said the discreet Sosia, keeping his face muffled in his cloak, and
speaking with a feigned voice, so that he might not hereafter be recognized.
'By the gods--a pimp! Unfeeling wretch!--do you not see my sorrows? Go!
and the curses of Pandarus with you!'
Sosia lost not a moment in retiring.
'Will you read the letter, Sallust?' said the freedman.
'Letter!--which letter?' said the epicure, reeling, for he began to see
double. 'A curse on these wenches, say I! Am I a man to think
of--(hiccup)--pleasure, when--when--my friend is going to be eat up?'
'Eat another tartlet.'
'No, no! My grief chokes me!'
'Take him to bed said the freedman; and, Sallust's head now declining fairly
on his breast, they bore him off to his cubiculum, still muttering
lamentations for Glaucus, and imprecations on the unfeeling overtures of
ladies of pleasure.
Meanwhile Sosia strode indignantly homeward. 'Pimp, indeed!' quoth he to
himself. 'Pimp! a scurvy-tongued fellow that Sallust! Had I been called
knave, or thief. I could have forgiven it; but pimp! Faugh! There is
something in the word which the toughest stomach in the world would rise
against. A knave is a knave for his own pleasure, and a thief a thief for
his own profit; and there is something honorable and philosophical in being
a rascal for one's own sake: that is doing things upon principle--upon a
grand scale. But a pimp is a thing that defiles itself for another--a
pipkin that is put on the fire for another man's pottage! a napkin, that
every guest wipes his hands upon! and the scullion says, "by your leave too.
A pimp! I would rather he had called me parricide! But the man was drunk,
and did not know what he said; and, besides, I disguised myself. Had he
seen it had been Sosia who addressed him, it would have been "honest Sosia!"
and, "worthy man!" I warrant. Nevertheless, the trinkets have been won
easily--that's some comfort! and, O goddess Feronia! I shall be a freedman
soon! and then I should like to see who'll call me pimp!--unless, indeed, he
pay me pretty handsomely for it!'
While Sosia was soliloquising in this high-minded and generous vein, his
path lay along a narrow lane that led towards the amphitheatre and its
adjacent palaces. Suddenly, as he turned a sharp corner he found himself in
the midst of a considerable crowd. Men, women, and children, all were
hurrying or laughing, talking, gesticulating; and, ere he was aware of it,
the worthy Sosia was borne away with the noisy stream.
'What now?' he asked of his nearest neighbor, a young artificer; 'what now?
Where are all these good folks thronging?' Does any rich patron give away
alms or viands to-night?'
'Not so, man--better still,' replied the artificer; 'the noble Pansa--the
people's friend--has granted the public leave to see the beasts in their
vivaria. By Hercules! they will not be seen so safely by some persons
'Tis a pretty sight,' said the slave, yielding to the throng that impelled
him onward; 'and since I may not go to the sports to-morrow, I may as well
take a peep at the beasts to-night.'
'You will do well,' returned his new acquaintance, 'a lion and a tiger are
not to be seen at Pompeii every day.'
The crowd had now entered a broken and wide space of ground, on which, as it
was only lighted scantily and from a distance, the press became dangerous to
those whose limbs and shoulders were not fitted for a mob. Nevertheless,
the women especially--many of them with children in their arms, or even at
the breast--were the most resolute in forcing their way; and their shrill
exclamations of complaint or objurgation were heard loud above the more
jovial and masculine voices. Yet, amidst them was a young and girlish
voice, that appeared to come from one too happy in her excitement to be
alive to the inconvenience of the crowd.
'Aha!' cried the young woman, to some of her companions, 'I always told you
so; I always said we should have a man for the lion; and now we have one for
the tiger too! I wish tomorrow were come!'
Ho, ho! for the merry, merry show,
With a forest of faces in every row!
Lo! the swordsmen, bold as the son of Alcmaena,
Sweep, side by side, o'er the hushed arena.
Talk while you may, you will hold your breath
When they meet in the grasp of the glowing death!
Tramp! tramp! how gaily they go!
Ho! ho! for the merry, merry show!
'A jolly girl!' said Sosia.
'Yes,' replied the young artificer, a curly-headed, handsome youth. 'Yes,'
replied he, enviously; 'the women love a gladiator. If I had been a slave,
I would have soon found my schoolmaster in the lanista!'
'Would you, indeed?' said Sosia, with a sneer. 'People's notions differ!'
The crowd had now arrived at the place of destination; but as the cell in
which the wild beasts were confined was extremely small and narrow, tenfold
more vehement than it hitherto had been was the rush of the aspirants to
obtain admittance. Two of the officers of the amphitheatre, placed at the
entrance, very wisely mitigated the evil by dispensing to the foremost only
a limited number of tickets at a time, and admitting no new visitors till
their predecessors had sated their curiosity. Sosia, who was a tolerably
stout fellow and not troubled with any remarkable scruples of diffidence or
good breeding, contrived to be among the first of the initiated.
Separated from his companion the artificer, Sosia found himself in a narrow
cell of oppressive heat and atmosphere, and lighted by several rank and
The animals, usually kept in different vivaria, or dens, were now, for the
greater entertainment of the visitors, placed in one, but equally indeed
divided from each other by strong cages protected by iron bars.
There they were, the fell and grim wanderers of the desert, who have now
become almost the principal agents of this story. The lion, who, as being
the more gentle by nature than his fellow-beast, had been more incited to
ferocity by hunger, stalked restlessly and fiercely to and fro his narrow
confines: his eyes were lurid with rage and famine: and as, every now and
then, he paused and glared around, the spectators fearfully pressed
backward, and drew their breath more quickly. But the tiger lay quiet and
extended at full length in his cage, and only by an occasional play of his
tail, or a long impatient yawn, testified any emotion at his confinement, or
at the crowd which honored him with their presence.
'I have seen no fiercer beast than yon lion even in the amphitheatre of
Rome,' said a gigantic and sinewy fellow who stood at the right hand of
'I feel humbled when I look at his limbs,' replied, at the left of Sosia, a
slighter and younger figure, with his arms folded on his breast.
The slave looked first at one, and then at the other. 'Virtus in
medio!--virtue is ever in the middle!' muttered he to himself; 'a goodly
neighborhood for thee, Sosia--a gladiator on each side!'
'That is well said, Lydon,' returned the huger gladiator; 'I feel the same.'
'And to think,' observed Lydon, in a tone of deep feeling, to think that the
noble Greek, he whom we saw but a day or two since before us, so full of
youth, and health, and joyousness, is to feast yon monster!'
'Why not?' growled Niger, savagely: 'many an honest gladiator has been
compelled to a like combat by the emperor--why not a wealthy murderer by the
Lydon sighed, shrugged his shoulders, and remained silent. Meanwhile the
common gazers listened with staring eyes and lips apart: the gladiators were
objects of interest as well as the beasts--they were animals of the same
species; so the crowd glanced from one to the other--the men and the
brutes--whispering their comments and anticipating the morrow.
'Well!' said Lydon, turning away, 'I thank the gods that it is not the lion
or the tiger I am to contend with; even you, Niger, are a gentler combatant
'But equally dangerous,' said the gladiator, with a fierce laugh; and the
bystanders, admiring his vast limbs and ferocious countenance, laughed too.
'That as it may be,' answered Lydon, carelessly, as he pressed through the
throng and quitted the den.
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